Little Lupines: Native Plant Profile #2

We have a new addition to the Native Plant Garden: Lupinus albifrons!  The evergreen leaves of this beautiful shrub are a fuzzy silvery-gray, hence its common name, Silver Bush Lupine.  Its inflorescences, which develop in April and May, can grow up to one foot long.  These stunning, fragrant blooms often cover the entire bush, creating a brillant purple display for your garden.  Not only are its flowers attractive to humans, but butterflies enjoy them as well, making Silver Bush Lupine an excellent choice if you would like your garden to become a part of San Francisco's extensive biological corridor.

Our little Lupinus albifrons!

Silver Bush Lupine is actually in the same plant family (Fabaceae) as some very common food crops -- peas and beans.  Late in the summer and early fall, Lupine bushes even produce light-green, hairy pods that closely resemble those of a snow pea.  (However, we don't recommend consuming it because, unlike its culinary relatives, Silver Bush Lupine is toxic if eaten.)  These pods dry and remain on the bush so, as you're hiking in the Bay Area this fall, you may walk past a Silver Bush Lupine and might hear the ethereal rattling of its pods in the wind. 

Members of the bean family (including Silver Bush Lupine) also have nitrogen-fixing root nodules that cause them to increase the nitrogen levels of the surrounding soil.  Thus, they play a very important role in enriching soils that were once nitrogen depleted.  So, if your yard is low on nitrogen, needing a drought tolerant plant, or if you're just looking for something to brighten your yard with silver foliage and purple flowers, a Silver Bush Lupine would be an excellent choice!  

Silver Bush Lupine at a glance 

Sun: Full
Water: None or very little
Soil: Requires good drainage
Wildlife: Butterflies
Pair with: Deer Grass, California Fescue, or Ceanothus

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